Monday, November 17, 2014

Picture Book Pointers from the Prairie ~ by Patricia Toht

What was I doing last Saturday night? 

Photo by Floyd G

White-knuckling it while skating my car home on icy roads. Sometimes I hate living in Illinois!






But, what was I doing last Saturday day? 


Glorying in 10+ hours at Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day, our state’s annual SCBWI conference. Sometimes I love living in Illinois!






This year’s faculty included:


• Esther Hershenhorn, writing teacher and coach
• Eliza Wheeler, author and illustrator
• Caroline Abbey, Senior Editor, Random House Children’s  Books
• Jordan Brown, Senior Editor, Walden Pond Press/Balzer & Bray
• Brett Duquette, Editor, Sterling Publishing
• Noa Wheeler, Editor, Henry Holt BYR
• Loraine Joyner, Senior Art Director, Peachtree Publishers
• Karen Grencik, Agent, Red Fox Literary Agency
• Rachel Orr, Agent, Prospect Agency


From Eliza Wheeler's opening speech to the final thoughts from faculty, the day was chock full of writing advice, tools, inspiration and laughs. Without a Harry Potter time turner, I couldn't attend every breakout session. As a picture book writer, I chose workshops in voice, revision, and craft that honed in on that format. Below are some helpful tidbits I gathered that day.

~ Oftentimes, a picture book needs an opening spread to tell you what to expect from the book; it initiates the voice and “trains” the reader in what to expect from the rest of the book. (Brett Duquette)

~ Your word choices should never be random. Choose words that have weight, especially action verbs. (Brett Duquette)

Photo by Alice Popkorn
~ Your characters need to go on both a physical and an emotional journey. (Eliza Wheeler)

~ Every character must serve a purpose in your story. If not, remove them – even the parents! (Brett Duquette)

~ If taking an illustrator on as a client, it’s important that the illustrator demonstrate that he/she knows how to make a picture book dummy. Try a dummy of a known story, such as a fairy tale. (Rachel Orr)

~ Don’t ruin the punch line of a joke by putting it into text when an illustration can have a bigger bang. Use an illustrator note. (Brett Duquette)


~ Craft matters! Take time to learn and grow. (Jordan Brown)

~ Don’t forget to be playful. And don’t be afraid to play with bad ideas, for something surprising may come of them. (Caroline Abbey)

~ You must want your manuscript to improve more than you want to be right. (Eliza Wheeler and Karen Grencik)

In their final advice of the day, the faculty reminded the writers and illustrators present to never be too nervous or afraid to ask questions. Editors, agents and other presenters are there to encourage and cheer you on.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!




21 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your notes! Awesome.

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    1. You're welcome, Tina. Happy to send advice across the miles.

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  2. Patricia, you really had a great faculty line-up. Glad your "white-knuckling" paid off. Great selection of important craft tips, too.

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    1. A wonderful group, Kathy, and so generous with their advice.

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  3. Wonderful advice! Thanks so much for sharing!

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  4. Great post! It's beautifully written, and I love the words of wisdom from the pros. Conferences can be inspiring -- thank you for spreading that inspiration.

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    1. Thanks, Christy. With the GROGgers hitting conferences far and wide, we've accumulated quite a bit of advice.

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  5. Great tips, and maybe the annual mtg could be bumped to a month with more reliable road conditions!

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    1. Haha! Great idea, Julie -- I'm definitely bringing that up at the next meeting!

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  6. Thanks Patricia for sharing this wealth of information!

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    1. You're welcome, Rita! Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. I hope to be going next year. Thanks for a glimpse into the conference. It looks like an extremely helpful one!

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    1. I hope you're able to make it next year, Jarm. I've always been pleased with the faculty and I learn something new every time.

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  8. Great info! Thanks so very much for sharing.

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  9. So pleased that you participated in Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day, OUR state’s annual SCBWI conference. Thank you for sharing many outstanding tips from the top notch faculty. I like Eliza Wheeler's suggestion . . . "View the page turn as a pulling back of a curtain to reveal new information." Thank you, Patty.

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    1. Maybe next year you can make the drive, Suzy? Although I'm glad you didn't this year, as the roads were treacherous. Eliza Wheeler was SO good.

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    2. I look forward to the possibility of being in attendance next year, Patty and catching up with you.

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  10. Awesome post! I wish I could have attended, but feel like I kinda did through your post. Well done and thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    TB

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  11. Dear Pat,
    What a treat you all had - wisdom from some of my favorite creatives, based on their books I've read & through following their blogs. I see two Wheelers - any relation to each other or the equally talented Lisa Wheeler? And how lucky to have the former SCBWI regional maven, Esther! What a glimmery, shimmery, nourishing time you all had. Appreciations for sharing.
    Happy Holidays, too!
    ~ j a n
    ps apologies for my delayed commenting

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